Re-Constructing Paper at Cheryl McGinnis Gallery continues this season’s exploration of contemporary visions created on or from paper. While paper functions as a passive surface in drawing and painting, Laura McCallum and Hilda Shen treat paper as an active element, using its versatile strength and flexibility to physically build images.
Unlike traditional painting, which represents the sky as a static image, Hilda Shen constructs the essence of sky, transporting the viewer’s spatial orientation from looking forward to soaring upward. In often classically-based compositions, her liquid use of paint on paper that is torn, thickly layered and sometimes coated with wax, reveals the sky’s mercurial movement, its changing colors and light, and the human eye’s fragmented way of taking in moments. As a city dweller, the sky “provides respite from urban life. One of the few places to rest my eye on something vast and infinite.”
Shen’s use of enlarged fingerprints and the act of collaging reflect the city’s continuous cycle of architectural deconstruction and reconstruction over time. Also used by Shen for her sculpted rocks, the fingerprints echo striations of formation and erosion, as well as the disruption of natural objects that have been removed from their surroundings and then placed in a new setting by human hands.
With a study of both “physical reflection and self-reflection,” Laura McCallum invites the viewer into a state of contemplation. Influenced by images mirrored on water, the stillness of dawn and the silence of her studio, McCallum’s tactile process, which ranges from furling and cutting to layering paper, is an expression of “conscious and unconscious movements” resulting in enigmatic organic configurations. Reminiscent of intricate Carolingian metalwork, illuminated manuscripts, and Renaissance quilling, McCallum’s serpentine and undulating formations of paper combine with contemporary minimalist geometric structures and shapes. In addition to using the paper raw, she frequently rubs graphite, pigment and/or paint onto the surface, and at times adds a skin of translucence with layered applications of acid-free glue. Compressed within hermetic frameworks, these filigrees are otherworldly and pregnant with expansion in pieces that are simultaneously intimate and monumental.